Microsoft Research Asia’s Philosopher of Online Search: Ji-Rong Wen


‘Softie in Question: Ji-Rong Wen

Job title: Senior Researcher – Web Data Management Grop – Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA)

Ji-Rong: please tell us about your academic background prior to coming to MSRA?

I received my Ph.D. from the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1999.

Why did you choose MSRA over academia?

At the time when I received my Ph.D., MSRA was widely recognized as the best place to do CS research in China. I love research, but ever since my childhood, I’ve always loved to build tangible things that actually work too. So, there’s no place better for this balance than MSRA. I’m lucky that I got in.

And then, why did you choose MSRA over working directly for a technology product?

I enjoy thinking outside of the box and like trying new things. That kind of freedom is a privilege and is hard to find  in a product group.

I read that you’re obsessed with the question “Is page the only or best atomic unit for information search on the Web?” What led to your “obsession” with this question?

I have been working on Search since I joined MSRA in 1999. I noticed that, in principle, the framework of modern search engines is the same as that of the library card index, which has remained unchanged for decades. Today, “searching information” is still equivalent to searching pages in books. I want to get search engines to their true “searching information” mission by directly addressing users’ information needs.

You made your presentation at MSR Innovation Day on your work in Academic Search. How do you see the results of your work changing the state of technology?

Our Academic Search demonstrates a new search paradigm, which can be called as “object-level search” or “entity search.” Object (entity) is a better way to represent knowledge on the Web. This is a significant step toward moving from “searching pages” to truly “searching information.”

Some of your research results have been integrated into important Microsoft products including Bing, Live Shopping Search and Microsoft Academic Search. What are the products you hope to influence in the future?

I am still focused on Bing. Searching information is one of the most important requirements for human beings. But search engine are still at their infant stages. I will continue working in this exciting area, hopefully for many years to come.

Read more about Ji-Rong’s work here.

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